Where exactly are Twitter’s lost ad dollars going?

twitter money

As Twitter’s money pots are dwindling fast, the question remains: Where are advertisers taking those dollars? 

In a word: everywhere.

Ever since Elon Musk took the reins, Twitter has become an increasingly toxic environment for advertisers. The result has been that many are pulling money out of the platform out of fear of their brands being swept up in the mayhem that has signified the change in ownership. This pullback has left marketers with some unelected ad dollars they need to put to work elsewhere. 

One option some advertisers have taken is to reallocate those dollars to other platforms.

As Adam Telian, vp of media services at digital marketing agency New Engen explained: “We had a couple of clients that were about to launch on Twitter, but they just held back and are now game planning on where [else] to spend that now.”

There have even been some early (albeit speculative) signs that other platforms such as Snapchat have been benefiting from Twitter’s declining ad spend. In October, while traffic to ads.twitter.com was down 19% year-over-year, traffic to ads.snapchat.com was up 47%, according to data from digital analytics firm Similarweb. 

The Social Element is one of many agencies that advised their clients to pause their Twitter spend in the initial weeks of Musk’s ownership. Since then, the agency has been telling clients to use social listening tools to see where their audiences are going instead, as the situation has become progressively worse, to determine which platform to head to next.

“If our clients’ main audiences are moving off Twitter because it’s a car crash right now, then maybe invest more in TikTok for example, where the community is much more welcoming and it’s a fun place for brands,” said the agency’s CEO Tamara Littleton.

Similarly, Graeme Douglas, co-founder of Bicycle London, would usually recommend a client to redeploy a budget into another channel if they had a baseline objective they needed to deliver on. But he noted, “Clients are increasingly cautious at the moment.”

Saving dollars for a rainy day

Douglas is not wrong.

Aside from the chaos over at Twitter headquarters, the current macroeconomic events at play have seen advertising swiftly descend into a downturn, meaning there are undoubtedly less ad dollars to go around. And of course, now the dollars that are being spent need to work harder.

And when they can’t be put to work elsewhere, those dollars tend to go somewhere where the impact is unequivocal — i.e., savings.

According to Douglas, there are increasing concerns among clients that things are heading downhill at Twitter. “Holding money back at the moment is seen as something to do,” he said. “Especially when there’s a convenient reason to do it.”

However, marketers probably won’t be telling their CFOs if they’re saving money. Instead, they’ll likely be using the opportunity to hide it somewhere, suggested Emma Harris, CEO of Glow London. “That way if there is a negative impact on their bottom line, where the revenue was affected by that pull, they will need to invest it elsewhere,” she said. “But it’s still way too early to redirect revenue in this manner.”

Douglas said he agrees that, from a CMO perspective, when marketers agree to cut budgets there’s a real risk they’ll never get those budgets back.

“If you’ve got a reason, it may insulate you a little bit from that ‘Why do you need it back?’ accusation later on,” said Douglas. “Your argument then is, we’re temporarily holding it back to see what happens. And while budgets are shrinking across the board, the Twitter [chaos] feels to me like a good reason.”

Media owners are on the chase

While marketers are holding their breaths before deciding their next moves, some media owners are actively trying to pursue their paused cash, and not very subtly either.

Take Vox Media, for example. The company’s svp of media revenue and head of concert AJ Frucci took to LinkedIn last week in a bid to take advantage of Twitter’s misfortunes.

“For any marketers out there pausing or reallocating spend on Twitter right now: Concert is a safe and effective alternative that delivers premium brand advertising in credible, trustworthy publisher environments reaching nearly 250mm engaged users every month,” he posted. “We are open for business in Q4 and will make your brand look good. Promise.”

Even Pinterest has tried to get in on the action. Unlike the information you’d normally find on the platform’s site or app or in its newsletters, Telian recalled New Engen’s Pinterest rep specifically sent the team a document titled “Competing to Win: Twitter edition.” The communication detailed how trusted and brand-safe Pinterest is, specifically calling out concerns people may have regarding Twitter. It seemed the underlying message was: If you leave Twitter completely, we can help you address those concerns over here at Pinterest where you’ll be safer.

“A couple of media partners on the display side have also reached out specifically with brand safety callouts,” said Telian. “They’re literally suggesting now that Twitter is potentially an unsafe space, come over to us instead, we’re brand safe, we do all these different tactics and layer on all these different protections.

“Everyone is jumping on the opportunity, whether it’s specific to the concerns of the platform itself and the environment that has now been created, or the fact that if we are all pulling dollars, we’re going to need to put it somewhere else,” Telian added.

That said, while this is a pretty dire situation for Twitter, the turmoil has come at a time of year when many advertisers find themselves with a few extra dollars in their media budgets that still need to be spent by the year’s end, otherwise they lose it.

It’s an odd, yet common conundrum marketers find themselves in. Perhaps some of that spare cash is heading toward ad tech or marketing tech vendors before Dec. 31, to support the ever increasing platform portfolio marketers have. Especially given that agencies have had to double their operations and production efforts to enable them to create native content for the likes of TikTok.

What is likely though, is those dollars won’t be heading back to Twitter anytime soon.

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